Stories of a Small Market: Jazz Photo Night

August 13th, 2010 | by Jeff Lind

This is the first in a series of short stories highlighting the good parts of being a member of a rabid fan base in a small market.

My dad loves basketball. Loves it. So when my parents moved to Utah in 1981, he made a plan to get Jazz season tickets. In 1983 he got his wish and he had his tickets. Because my mom wasn’t as much of a sports fan, part of the spousal negotiation of buying these tickets was the agreement that he was going to take the kids with him as often as possible for some dad time. The only problem: His four kids were 7, 5, 3 (yours truly), and 1. Anyone that has wrestled a small kid in a grocery aisle knows that these are not ideal ages for attending professional basketball games. If anything testifies of my dad’s undying allegiance to this game and team, it’s the early years as a Jazz season ticket holder. There were multiple times where he paid good money to have his kids either A) fall asleep halfway through a game or B) read a book through the third quarter. I can’t believe he suffered through it. The investment paid off, however, and he now has eight kids that love the Utah Jazz. Gone are the days of him trying to talk a small child out of a Disney video at home and into a basketball game; now there are fights for those seats.

By the time I was eight in 1988, I was a full fledged Jazz fan. I knew and loved the franchise. This was small market Salt Lake, and we felt like this was our team! These were our boys! But being a smaller market meant that the team had to do more things to gain public interest. As a result, they used to hold events where season ticket holders could go to the arena early, wait in line, and meet random members of the team. On one such night, my older brother Scott and I were thrilled when my dad asked if we would attend a fan appreciation night with him. Scott had just gotten a small yellow, green, and purple basketball for his birthday that he would get signed, and we could each get a picture with one of our basketball heroes.

The night came, and we drove to the Salt Palace early. We stood in line with the other season ticket holders, anxiously anticipating our chance to get placed with players. The odds of getting a good player were slim, though, because you could be paired with anyone on the roster. Scott and I stood there in line, excitedly talking about which players we would like to be paired with (Please, oh, please bring on Stockton or Malone!). As we approached the front of the line, my brother nervously gave me his basketball. He explained that my luck was much better than his, and I would most likely get put with one of the great Jazz players. It was flawless 10 year old logic and it made sense . . . I mean, I did have good luck! I took the ball and remember being excited to get it signed for him. John Stockton, here I come!

Minutes later we were at the front of the line, and the attendants separated me from my brother. We were taken in opposite directions, and were led off to various points in the gym where basketball players and Polaroid cameras were waiting. I remember passing player after player–Darryl Griffith, John Stockton, Mark Eaton–until finally I ended here:

That’s right: that’s me with the one and only Kelly Tripucka. And if you look closely, you’ll see Scott’s basketball, now victoriously signed by Tripucka, in my lap.

So, you’re probably wondering where Scott ended up.

Jeff will be a regular contributor on Salt City Hoops. Follow him on Twitter!

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13 Comments

  1. Mindy says:

    Oh my goodness I LOVE this story. I’m laughing hysterically. Great pictures too!

  2. Dave says:

    Awesome. Scott is closing his eyes thinking, “Just my luck. I gave my basketball to Jeff. “

  3. Jefferson says:

    Kelly Tripucka is a Hall of Famer in his own right… The National Polish-American Hall of Fame. http://polishsportshof.com/inductees/

    Great Story!

  4. Crystal says:

    I hope you still have that basketball. Knowing Scott it is chronicled alongside other childhood memorabilia in your mother’s basement. You should go dig it out and see how that signature is holding up.

  5. Emmadoodle says:

    I’m wondering where your older sister was. :) (I have no memory of this night, which probably means I wasn’t invited.)

  6. Renato Afonso says:

    Lol @ those pics. However it makes me wish that all teams had stuff like that. To a 10 y.o. that picture or that day would be the highlight of the year, so yeah, even big teams should do it.

    That being said, this is my first post here (even though I read all of the TrueHoop network and participate in Forum Blue and Gold) and there’s a reason for it. Me and my mates set up a dynasty league with 30 tems, salary cap, luxury tax, MLE, all the works. We would like to have a Jazz fan taking over the franchise, which is one of the four still available. Check it out at http://dynastyleaguebball.proboards.com/index.cgi Read the rules and if you want to participate, submit an application. There’s always someeone in the chat to help you around.

    Cheers and be sure I’ll keep reading and posting when you face the Lakers ;)

  7. stacy says:

    This is a great story! What awesome photos and what a wise dad you have to invest in season tickets and create such lasting and fun memories with his kids. Thanks for the great article.

  8. Carl says:

    Ha! That’s funny material right there. Thanks for the story!

  9. Camille says:

    So classic! Luved the post & the pictures, both, are priceless! I agree with Renato, this is the type of stuff teams and players should STILL be doing…clean cut role models who are giving “back” to their fans!
    You bleed JAZZ and I luv the dedication!
    *cami

  10. spam says:

    I LOVE that story! I laughed my head off!

  11. skitch says:

    I wonder if any NBA team still does this kind of promotion. ???

  12. DC Diva says:

    What a great story! My favorite part is Scott’s eyes are closed. He’s so shocked with the irony he can’t even believe it.

  13. Lori says:

    Such a funny story. I seriously laughed out loud and read it to my husband. Because of your dad I also have a deep love for the Jazz. He was such a devoted fan that even I ended up a a few games with him, and then on to Hardee’s for some free fries (if our boys could score over 100 points and win…right?) Great article, I can’t wait to read more!

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